Mistrial In Illegal Migrant Murder Trial Of Arizona Rancher

An Arizona judge declared a mistrial in the case against a cattle rancher charged with murdering an illegal migrant trespassing on his private land. The jury deciding the fate of 75-year-old George Kelly could not reach a verdict on Friday or Monday.

Kelly was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea of Mexico. He faced a minimum prison term of ten years.

The deadly encounter unfolded on Jan. 30, 2023, when Kelly spotted a group of illegal migrants about 100 yards away on his Nogales cattle ranch. Authorities believed he fired nine shots.

Cuen-Buitimea previously crossed the U.S. border with Mexico illegally on numerous occasions. He was deported in 2016.

Kelly told investigators that he did not fire at the group on his ranch near the border but fired several warning shots up in the air. Nine shell casings were recovered on the rancher’s porch, according to court records, but the bullet that killed Cuen-Buitimea was never located.

Defense attorney Brenna Larkin told the jury in her closing that the defendant faced “a life-or-death situation.” She declared he would have been justified in using deadly force, but he refrained.

An alleged witness, Daniel Ramirez, became a point of contention in the case. Santa Cruz County Sheriff David Hathaway reportedly met with Ramirez weeks later.

Prosecutors insisted that Ramirez witnessed the shooting before he fled back across the border. But the defense highlighted testimony from the “witness” that seemed to contradict that he was present at the time of the shooting.

Larkin told the jury, which visited the property, that they could not find Kelly guilty on charges related to Ramirez because the alleged victim was not even there.

She added that guilty verdicts on the other counts could also not be reached due to the lack of proof that the rancher shot anyone.

Kelly’s wife Wanda testified that she called their Border Patrol liaison after seeing two armed men in camouflage with rifles and backpacks on their property about 100 feet away.

Officers responded to the scene, and Kelly later notified authorities that he discovered a body.

The prosecution argued that the dead migrant was unarmed and hinted that Mexican drug cartels interfered with the investigation.

A defense criminologist noted to Fox News Digital the theory that the group encountered bandits — possibly cartel-affiliated — and Cuen-Buitimea was robbed and fatally shot.